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[HYDERABAD] Last week's fatal gun attack at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore has triggered a debate over security at India's universities.

M. C. Puri, a professor at the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, who was visiting the IISc for an international conference, was fatally shot on 28 December. Three scientists and a laboratory assistant were also injured.

The incident raised the question of whether greatly enhancing security to thwart possible future attacks is desirable in scientific and academic institutes whose sprawling open campuses receive hundreds of visiting students and academics.

IISc director P. Balaram said after the incident that while the IISc would increase its security, it would not be turned into an armed fortress and would maintain its open atmosphere.

"Science and scientists are open. If that openness is destroyed, the scientific culture is destroyed," says Raghunath Mashelkar, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Like Balaram, Mashelkar said security would be tightened at CSIR facilities in light of the attack, but that their openness would not be affected.

An editorial in The Hindu newspaper points out the difficulty of tightening security on campuses where so many people live and work. The IISc campus covers 1.6 square kilometres, and has more than 1,300 staff.

Puri's murder was condemned by prime minister Manmohan Singh. He told delegates at the Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad on Tuesday (3 January) that it was a "symbol of the success of Indian science and technology, of our emergence as a knowledge power," that a scientific institute had been "targeted by terrorists".

Singh said he was confident that all "knowledge workers will close ranks and join the struggle to make India a great nation… a knowledge power". 

The immediate fall-out from the shooting was excessive security at the Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University campus in Hyderabad, which is this week hosting the Indian Science Congress (see Indian government says science needs rural focus). Police frisked delegates, searched conference bags and stopped vehicles from going near the main venues.

About 2,000 delegates who had registered for this week's congress failed to attend, yet 4,000 still took part in the meeting, India's largest annual gathering of scientists.

Police have arrested one person in connection to the Bangalore shooting. There is no concrete evidence yet linking the attack to a specific group.

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